E Street Band sax player Clarence Clemons dies

NEW YORK (AP) - Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen’s life and music through four decades, has died. He was 69.

Clemons died Saturday night after being hospitalized about a week ago following a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla.

Springsteen acknowledged the dire situation earlier this week, but said then he was hopeful. He called the loss “immeasurable.”

“We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years,” Springsteen said on his website. “He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including “Jungleland,” a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and “Born To Run.”

In recent years, Clemons had been slowed by health woes. He endured major spinal surgery in January 2010 and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.

But his health seemed to be improving. In May, he performed with Lady Gaga on the season finale of “American Idol,” and performed on two songs on her “Born This Way” album. Just this week, Lady Gaga’s video with Clemons, “The Edge of Glory,” debuted.

Clemons said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press then that he was winning his battles _ including severe, chronic pain and post-surgical depression. His sense of humor helped.

“Of all the surgeries I’ve had, there’s not much left to operate on. I am totally bionic,” he said.

“God will give you no more than you can handle,” he said in the interview. “This is all a test to see if you are really ready for the good things that are going to come in your life. All this pain is going to come back and make me stronger.”

Outside The Stone Pony, the legendary Asbury Park, N.J., rock club where Springsteen, Clemons and other E Street Band members cut their teeth in the 1970s, Phil Kuntz stopped to place a small yellow flower on a decorative white fence. Nearby, someone taped a handwritten sign that read simply “RIP Big Man.”

“I’ll never hear `Jungleland’ played live again, and that’s a bummer,” said Kuntz, 51, who had seen Clemons perform with Springsteen in excess of 200 times.

Caroline O’Toole, The Stone Pony’s general manager, called it “a sad day for Asbury Park.”

“He was `the Big Man’ but he was an even bigger man here,” she said. “His presence was just enormous and unbelievable. No one who has ever played at our club in all the decades was ever like him.”

John D’Esposito, a talent buyer for the concert promoter Live Nation, also stopped by the club.

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